Forgiveness is mine

Thanksgiving is coming up soon and it always gets me to thinking about what I’m truly thankful for:  This week I am thankful for forgiveness.

I’m not a perfect person as my children like to tell me regularly.  They tease me about my foibles, the eccentricities of their mother, and my outright mistakes.  (Only they are allowed to do this though, they would set anyone else straight who criticized me.) I have had to ask for their forgiveness and I am so thankful that they have given it to me.  I can’t imagine living with the guilt for the rest of my life, if they said, “No, we can’t forgive you, you are unforgiveable.”  Their father and I made mistakes in our marriage, ending it in divorce, and today respect each other and have given forgiveness.  Our children have benefitted from that and learned from it.  We are a family who believes in forgiveness.

I had coffee today with a classmate from my high school days.  We talked about forgiveness and how it correlates in today’s society.  I shared with her that it upsets me that our entire society seems to have a chip on their shoulder and is unable to give forgiveness.  What we have is a society of victims who can’t give forgiveness, choose not to move forward, and are unable to be healthy survivors.  Here I am on my high horse, I know.  There are wonderful examples of groups of peoples who were treated horribly in history and have moved on: the Italians, the Irish and the Chinese were treated as slaves, they mined and built our railroads receiving little or nothing for pay.  They were spit on, beat up and called names.   They are survivors.

When you act like a victim; people treat you like a victim; you are perceived as weak and unable to take care of yourself.  Look around you.  Some of you will think I am talking about a particular race, or culture, but I’m not.  You see victims everywhere, regardless of whatever stereotype you want to name.  I’m reading a book right now about coal miners in the Appalachians who were treated horribly..  Many moved on and survived; many didn’t.

I understand forgiveness, because I have had to ask for it and I have given it; both are tough. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you forget, as my children example shows, but forgiveness means you get peace.  The negative energy it takes to not forgive, becomes positive energy, you get to move forward.

My Dad is in assisted living and I stopped up an visited with him the other night for an hour or so.  When I left, I said, “Dad, I’m going to be gone for a couple of weeks, but will see you when I get back.  He said, “Ok, well I will miss you.”  “I love you Dad.”  “I love you too Wanny.”  Our family knows forgiveness.  I know forgiveness.  I wish it for you, with all of my heart.

Peace….

Don’t trust anyone, not even your Papa..

Trust; the way a child feels about their parent, a dog feels about its owner, a child towards a grandparent, a spouse to spouse….. how do we define it or explain how we lose it?

I don’t know what was wrong with me, when I was a kid.  I loved to jump… I was like a  little Mexican Jumping Bean…  My Dad tells the story of standing in front of the barn working on something; I had climbed to the top of the old two story barn; was only about five, and said, “Daddy should I jump?”  He said, “I don’t care.”, never in a million years thinking I would.  He said he saw a shadow come over his shoulder, and he looked and I had landed in the hay pile next to him.  I jumped off of everything…one afternoon I was practicing my jumping bean routine and Dad had tired of it.  He came upstairs, in our old farm house and said, “I’m going to break you of your jumping.”  He proceeded to have me jump off of everything: beds, dressers, chairs, and finally the banister of the stairs.  He caught me every time, until the bannister.  I jumped and he stepped back.  When I landed on the floor, I asked him why he hadn’t caught me.  He said, “Don’t trust anyone, not even your Papa.”  He told me later that his father had said the same thing to him, at some point in his life.  I understood little of trust at that age, and only thought about it retrospectively later.  How sad it is not to be able to trust.

I don’t jump anymore: I’m afraid of heights and would probably break an ankle, or a hip. 🙂  I’m not very good at trusting either.  Do you trust?  Who would you let catch you if you jumped.  I have seen the trust fall demonstrated at conferences.  You fall back into a colleagues arms…. scary!

I do still try…trusting with bits at a time…my husband, our children, (I trust most dogs!) working on it!  Working on trust leads to disappointment sometimes.  My oldest son told me that I always expect people to do the right thing and that’s why I’m disappointed.  I do expect people to do the right thing and I’m tough; I can stand a little disappointment as long as there’s the chance…  Trust!

Peace……

You Would Know Four Things About Mom..

I taught a Freshman Seminar class at a community college a few years back.  One of the ways I had the students introduce themselves, was to tear toilet paper off of a roll, that I passed around the class.  They were to tear off the amount of paper they used, when they went to the bathroom.  They then had to share as many things about themselves, as there were squares of the tissue.  There would be embarrassed laughs and inevitably someone, thinking they were cute would tear off just one, while someone else would tear off 10.  It was a way to break the ice and it worked.  If my mother was in the class, she would have told us four things.

September 10th, 2017 was the third anniversary of Mom’s death.  I always say “my mom”, as if she had only me,  but there were four of us kids.  She had three daughters in a row, while making it perfectly clear, that her goal was a son, as my dad desperately wanted a son to farm with.  We were a conservative farm family, on the brink of poor, raised to love country and the Catholic Church.  Mom wasn’t raised Catholic, but joined when she married Dad.  That is the first thing you should know about her she loved the Catholic Church.

You would think after three years the unexpected jars on my heart would stop.  Days will go by and boom…. some unexpected trigger sends a feeling of loss over me, and I cry.  I cry because I miss what we could have been, friends.  Mom and I shared little until her death, we talked, but nothing from our souls.  We became closest the months before her death because the second thing you should know about her is she was very private.

Mom overcame much in her life by putting things in little compartments, only taking them out when she needed to and could handle them.  Some things never came out, but ate at her anyway.  If Mom ever loved you, she never stopped.  The third thing you should know is she was loyal to everyone she loved, except herself.

Mom’s last days were spent on Hospice.  They gave us books that told us the signs of her impending death and “helpful” hints; darkening of skin, talking to people that weren’t there and that we should make sure and tell her it was ok to go.  All of us did our best, to help her, support her, tell her we loved her, sing to her and recite the rosary.  Even those of us who had abandoned the Catholic Church, or felt like it had abandoned us, could still say the Rosary… She clung on to life, like I can’t imagine.  Everyone had told her it was ok, to go and be with Grandma and Aunty Anne, be she didn’t seem to hear.

I thought about it one night, her last night,  and realized something.  I went in and put my head by hers, told her how much I loved her, and that I would try my best to do what I could, what was expected of me for the family and then I told her, “Mom, you leave when you’re damn good and ready, and not a minute before.  We will be here as long as you need us to be.”    The fourth thing you should know is that Mom was stubborn.

It’s easy to get caught up in what we missed.. She loved me and trusted me, putting her faith in me, when it was her darkest time.  Maybe it doesn’t matter that we weren’t baring our souls, in an earlier time, maybe it just had to be, when she was damn good and ready.  Rest in Peace Mom.

Peace…..

 

If Not Us, If Not You, Then Who?

Ayn Rand has long been a favorite author of mine.  Today, when I was trying to calm myself enough, to not have every word that I write, be a word of anger.  I need to tell you what I am thinking, calmly and her quote helps me to be successful with that objective.  When I read in the paper, see on the news, the stories of more and more people being charged/convicted of sexual assault, It’s hard not to be frustrated.  Please read what I’m thinking today; it’s so important to someone, maybe even someone you love.

When our sons, daughters, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, sisters and brothers find the courage to come forward, they must be believed.  If they come to you, to me, to their teacher, grandmother, mother, father….they must be believed.  I talked to a friend the other day, who had just found out about someone that was being convicted of a sexual crime.  He said to me, “I just am struggling to believe it.”  We all struggle to believe, that’s how they get away with it.  Children go to adults and confide in them and adults can’t believe..  How do you take what you know and love about anyone and balance it with a deprivation that shakes your soul?  How do you come to terms?  How do you pick sides?  You pick the children…. If not us, not you, then who?

Within the last year, I had someone tell me, that my abuser had told their mother what had happened to me.  This person wondered if it was really that bad…  The thought sickens me that 48 years later, the child in me is still not believed.  I never told anyone, aside from a classmate when I was little,  until I was 18, when I told my children’s father.  I told no one for another 12 years.  I thought about it; I looked around my small world and wondered who I could trust?  Who?  I had people that loved me, but to believe something so bazaar, so unnatural, so sick….  I told no one, not the pastor that I admired, not my mother, not my favorite teacher and not even my grandmother..  I never had the courage to tell, so never had to sit in a courtroom, talk to a judge, or an opposing attorney… I can’t imagine that much courage in a child..  that much courage in the parents of that child.

Abuse of children is not racist, is not sexist, doesn’t adhere to Christian or non-Christian lines.  Abuse of children opens it’s arms wide and accepts anyone and everyone; it is like the anti-Christ of the utopia we would like the world to be.

Believe the children; it’s our job to protect them; if not us, not you, then who?

Peace…

 

The Grandma Who Loved Me, for Me.

There are relationships that left me feeling slighted,  throughout my life, especially relationships with some of the men in my life, but one relationship that I was blessed with, that lifted me, and helped to carry me through early dark days, was the relationship with my Grandma Patten.  She was a strong Baptist woman, who raised her family the best she could, whose oldest granddaughter could be a bit of a wild child, especially according to the standards of grandma’s generation.

Grandma saw the good in me, it never occurred to her to see anything else.  I would ride over to Parshall, ND (about 17 miles away) on my motorcycle to say hello.  She would show me her flowers, feed me some cookies, and visit.

Staying with her was a treat; I would sleep in until the smells from the kitchen would wake me.  Sometimes it was coffee, sometimes it was cinnamon rolls, and often it was whatever she was prepping for dinner, maybe meatballs.  I would wake and have a leisurely breakfast, make my bed, wander around the yard, and it would be time for lunch.  Sometimes we would sew..  Grandma was a fabulous seamstress; I would watch, fascinated, as she marked out the pattern using tracing paper and her tracing wheel, sometimes making adjustments with a piece of chalk.  She, my Baptist grandma, made me my first bikini.  When I was a teenager, who rode a motorcycle, she would help me make halter tops to go with my short, cut off jeans.. very short cut off jeans.  I remember distinctly one afternoon, when we made a white halter top, with white cording for the top and bottom ties, grandma looking through her loot for an applique that would discreetly cover my nipples, to keep them from showing through the top.  She stood there in one of her “daily” dresses, moving the applique this way and that, until it covered what it was supposed to, and then very carefully pinning it in place.  It was an anchor.  She never questioned my morality, never told me I should dress differently, never criticized…she just loved me.

In the afternoons, I was allowed to read, for hours.  When I had finished a book, she would sit me down at the kitchen table and quiz me on the characters, setting and plot, to make sure I wasn’t reading so fast that I missed the important parts.  There was always cookies and a glass of milk on the table.  We had conversation.

The spring of my first year of college; I decided to break off my engagement to my fiancé, about two weeks before the wedding.  It was an outrage; our small community was aghast.  I ran for the protection of my grandma.  I told her what I had done and we talked about love.  I told her that I wasn’t sure I knew what it was supposed to be.  Grandma walked to the bookshelf, opened her Bible and read Corinthians to me.

“4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.”

In other words, love was my grandma.

Some of my inspiration for my writing comes from grandma; after she died there were so many times I wished I had asked her more questions: why did she marry Grandpa, did she feel like she had made sacrifices, what were her greatest joys and greatest challenges, did she ever have a crush on the milkman? (she would not have answered that one, but it would have been fun to ask her, she would have said, “Luanna!” and given me the look. The same look that she gave me when I asked her, if she was sure there wasn’t some Hidatsa in our family, because we all have the same pot bellies, that Lewis and Clark remarked on, in their journals.  The same look was given to me when I asked her if her favorite author Gladys Taber was gay.  She told me no both times, I’m willing to concede the Hidatsa blood, but am darn sure Gladys was indeed a lesbian.  I have googled it.)  I write, so that hopefully somewhere in my writing, there will be answers for my grandchildren, an interpretation of something I have said that might bring them comfort on a day that’s going bad.   Maybe I can say something that will be their anchor.

Peace….

Facing Fears

It is obvious that society runs on fear.  We rightly or wrongly elected a president, because of fear and continue to let fear define us as a population.  Afraid of new ideas, of old ideas, of each other and sadly we are afraid of ourselves.  We are a country of fear…  I can’t fix the country, you can’t either, we can only control i.e..fix ourselves, and that alone is a challenge few of us dare to try..

Most of my life I have slept facing the door at night.  I don’t know why; no-one ever came into my room at night, while I slept.  There was no abuse in the dark, no surprises in the night, but for some reason I had this unreasonable fear that I had to sleep facing the door, so I would see whoever, whatever coming through the door.  It determined which side of the bed I slept in at a motel, my bedroom, and even which direction I slept on a couch.  I never told anyone; I became so used to it, that the pattern was almost subconscious, unless I was asked to sleep differently.  The anxiety would rise up in me, and I would have to consciously calm myself; self-talk my way to reason, there is no one, the door is locked…… I am doing better with it, I’m less afraid of what could happen, more rational, more mature, less afraid.

My other great fear is the loss of a child.  My youngest son ran errands for companies, (it’s called hot-shotting), he would often be out working at night, all night long, on roads with conditions, that were sometimes dangerous.  I would call him before I went to bed, and when I woke in the middle of the night, I would wonder where he was, if he was safe, should I call…..  I started to feel neurotic; my fear keeping me awake for hours; my mind imagining the worst.  He and his older brother would go snowmobiling during avalanche season in the Rockies; I would check weather sites and worry…  My fear wasn’t good for me and it wasn’t good for them.  They both stopped telling me when they were dong things, so I wouldn’t worry.  I didn’t want to be shut out, by their protection of me so I started to turn it over to God.  Now I know there are those of you who don’t believe in God, but God is real to me.  He/she is who I can turn my fears over too.. I can’t control my fears; I can’t control, but I have to believe that God can.  Where does that put people who lose family they love…I don’t know.  I can’t say God had a different purpose, or there are lessons….I just don’t know.  I do know, that for me turning it over to God, whether the belief is my prayers matter, or it’s an acknowledgment of my lack of control, works for me.

Acknowledging that we have control, only over ourselves, is an essential part of healing, of surviving.  We can only take responsibility for the decisions and actions that we make and take.  Don’t be afraid…allow yourself to be a survivor and not a victim; relinquish your fear and things you can not control, to God, to Buddha, to Mother Earth….

Peace….

My body is getting older, my mind is fighting it….

Turning 58 was a celebration, because of the bike ride I had accomplished, but more so because of the awareness of so many, who never get to be 58.  When I was working at Williston State College, in my 40’s, we had the habit of celebrating birthdays.  One of the instructors turned 50 and did not want a celebration; she wasn’t happy about getting older.  Another instructor stopped in my office to visit about our lack of a birthday lunch for the psychology instructor.  Jackie had Lupus and worked with her disease most days.  Her comment is one I have never forgotten,  “I am thrilled to gain every year, because I don’t know how many I will get.”

Do any of us know how many years we will get?  I always had a smug satisfaction, because both of my grandmothers were in the 90 range, give or take a year, that I had familial longevity on my side; the death of my mother at 75 changed that feeling.

Granted Mom was a life-long smoker, a type-A, who lived a life filled with stress, much not of her own doing. While I am not a life long smoker, maybe two cigarettes in my life and parts of a couple of joints, I have the weight issue that my mother never had.  I’m more diligent about my health care, get more exercise, and work fairly hard at being a type-b, but I have her genetics as well.  Her father died of lung issues, while no autopsy was held, pneumonia was the official cause, but many of us suspected cancer.  Mom also had a minor heart attack, that was undiagnosed for years, my paternal grandfather died of a heart attack, and my Dad has been saved from one by modern medicine a couple of times.  My husband says, when I voice my worries, “We all have to die of something.”  He is nothing if not pragmatic.  🙂

I am 58, if I’m allowed to survive for twenty more years, I will have three more than Mom.  Thirty three more years, will give me the same time as her mother, I of course am hoping that along with the other traits of my maternal grandmother, that longevity will survive in me as well!

Do I fear death; of course I do, but not for the reasons I would have imagined at twenty.  I want to see my grandchildren marry and have children of their own; I want to see my children to retirement, know they are all happy and successful in their life choices.. I want more time.  I feel my body aches, even when I’ve done little. I try to remember the words of Elizabeth Taylor.  She said she jumped out of bed every morning, ignoring the stiffness, and soreness and went on about her day.

Today I will enjoy today; hopefully next year, I will enjoy 59!  Looking forward to longevity, praying for it, and counting on it.  Live long and prosper.  🙂

Peace….

Would the dolphins be my friends?

“I looked down, at the blue green of the water, the dolphins sleek backs popping out of the water, so quickly disappearing in the wake of the boat.  The sun is shining, but I don’t feel it; I feel cold and lost.  If I slipped off the back of the boat, would the dolphins be my friends? and what would that mean?  Would they bounce me back to the top, or stay by my side as I drifted to the bottom.”

The second time, and hopefully last time, darkness was all encompassing…  oh Luanna, why would you write about this?  Because I’m similar to you..you survivors of loss, of abuse, of all encompassing disease.  Our survival is different, our situations may be different, but we are surviving non-the-less.  We are members of the same club.  🙂  If you haven’t dealt with depression, haven’t had it pop up on you and try to steal your soul, then you truly are blessed; embrace your blessing!

My mom had died, I was put in the position of taking care of my abuser, we had some issues on our property, my only nephew was killed and there were additional family issues…you know, nothing that couldn’t be handled one at a time, two at a time…but all of them together just became too much..  I felt like I needed to be the glue but just couldn’t hold it together anymore.  How did I find the courage… I told my children, I told my husband, I insinuated it to a few friends, and then I flipped the switch.. Flipping the switch is my tongue in cheek way of saying I made a decision…  I don’t take that for granted..  I know decision is different for everyone and I won’t judge people who can’t or don’t.

What is my purpose?  I wasn’t a perfect parent, but my children turned out wonderful, they are everything I wanted them to be, caring, hard working, good friends and independent thinkers.  While I love them beyond belief, they alone cannot be my sole purpose; it wouldn’t be fair to them, they need to have their own lives and find their own purpose.  I can guide but they cannot be my sole purpose.  The grandchildren would be next in line and I have to tell you that they are even more perfect than their parents!  They are part of my purpose, but I can’t and won’t try to take any of their parent’s authority away…. My husband, whom I adore 99.9% of the time, is part of my purpose, but can’t be all… Friends, society, etc..  Where am I going with all of this?  I have discovered that I have many purposes, when one fails, there are others to focus on; we add them, change them, and discard them when needed.  This is survival…

I’m sure the dolphins would have taken the woman in my story, into an embrace, and carried her to the top.  They would have known she was a survivor.

Peace